Kitchen Spring Housekeeping
Comprehensive spring cleaning
Every operation should have a daily, weekly and monthly cleaning schedule to keep up with the grease, grime and bacteria that accumulate in every busy kitchen. This regular maintenance protects against foodborne illness, makes the work environment more pleasant for your staff and helps to ensure that your operation is ready should the food inspector drop in.
With spring on the horizon, plan ahead to get a jump on the huge task of comprehensive spring cleaning. You might want to consider a professional commercial cleaning service that specializes in restaurant kitchens. Whether you hire it done or enlist your staff to do the job, set your standards high. Your reputation depends upon it. Here’s a checklist to augment your own list so that nothing slips through the cracks.
Remember to praise and reward employees who help with this gargantuan but necessary job. They will be more enthusiastic next time if they know that their toil is appreciated.
Grease is the Word
Grease buildup is a true kitchen menace. This slippery devil can cause a kitchen fire; employee slips and falls; and attracts bugs, rodents and bacteria. In addition to your regular maintenance, spring cleaning should include eliminating grease from behind and underneath all equipment and surfaces. Thoroughly degrease exhaust fans. The equipment will operate more efficiently, last longer and you may prevent a fire hazard.
Suck it Up
A vacuum cleaner is indispensable for capturing dust and cobwebs from ceilings, baseboards, light fixtures, heating and cooling vents, door jams and hard-to-reach corners. Cobwebs take flight in the breeze, and you want to prevent them from getting into your food.
Every Nook and Cranny
- Ice machines can be the culprit for foodborne illness. Follow manufacturer’s cleaning and sanitizing instructions to the letter. Coolers and freezers should be emptied and thoroughly cleaned and sanitized several times a year in addition to regular maintenance. Remember exterior, tops, gaskets and fans.
- Spring Housekeeping
- Clean and sanitize all kitchen surfaces that are not included on the regular schedule, including ceilings, walls, tops and sides of equipment, storage shelves, pot racks, light fixtures, etc.
- Clean and sanitize those hidden appliance and equipment parts not readily accessible.
- Clean and sanitize interior and exterior of all waste receptacles, including the outside dumpsters. Do not neglect to sweep and hose down the area under and around dumpsters, even if the only ones who use this area are your employees and the sanitation crew. This is an area that can attract nasty pests. (Provide a receptacle for employees who smoke out back, and insist that it be used and emptied frequently.)
- Disinfect floor drains.
- Thoroughly clean kitchen office surfaces, including the computer keyboard and screen.
- Clean and disinfect areas in employee restrooms that aren’t included in the regular schedule
GREEN UP YOUR CLEANING
Switching to more environmentally clean products can be easy if you just make the commitment.
Harsh chemicals. Paper and plastic products that clog landfills. Bleach that ends up in the waterway. These are things many restaurateurs don’t consider when buying their cleaning products and dry goods. Many of us don’t think about the larger impact restaurants have on the environment. But by making even small changes in the products you use, it can have a lasting effect.
“I try to lessen the impact on the environment as much as possible,” said Alex Harrell, chef/owner of Angeline in New Orleans. “It’s a feel-good thing and it’s not something we use as a marketing tool. It’s just what we believe in. It follows in line with the whole philosophy of what Angeline is in being a better part of the community. It would feel hypocritical if I was supporting all of these small farms that are sustainable and natural and I was then dumping four gallons of bleach into the water system each week.”
Harrell said he looks for soaps and degreasers that have less harsh corrosive chemicals, products that are more plant-derived and that don’t have as many phosphates, inorganic chemicals often found in detergents and soaps that can end up in the water system and cause larger problems. Harrell also started using plant-based products that are more compostable and recyclable, like to-go cups and silverware. And, as in many kitchens, his staff goes through many little tasting spoons each shift. They started using eco-friendly teaspoons to lessen the impact on waste.
“IT’S A FEEL-GOOD THING AND IT’S NOT SOMETHING WE USE AS A MARKETING TOOL. IT’S JUST WHAT WE BELIEVE IN.”
- Alex Harrell, Owner of Angeline, New Orleans, La.
If you want to make your restaurant greener, you can look to some organizations, including the Green Restaurant Association, Green Seal, Greenguard and the Chlorine Free Products Association, which help identify and certify which products meet certain environmental standards. The Green Restaurant Association works directly with restaurants across the United States to help find better cleaning products, which can involve a process until you find what’s right for you.
“Get your facts first,” said Michael Oshman, CEO and founder of the Boston-based Green Restaurant Association, which was founded in 1990. “Then get some samples and prices and make sure they’re worth your time. Do all your due diligence you would with any product and wait until you find one you like at a good price point. If you get a sample that doesn’t work, don’t give up. If your distributor isn’t carrying it, there’s another company that serves your area that specializes in green chemicals. Do a little shopping.”
Not all products you find are the best, but may be the best available. Harrell said a citrus-based degreaser he uses to clean the floors after every shift isn’t as effective as one with more harsh chemicals, but it’s the best one available in his market. He also said cost can play a role in making the switch, but he can justify the spending when he knows his dining room won’t give off a chemical smell, tarnishing the overall dining experience.
“If you’re committed to being green and reducing your overall impact, those products are out there,” Harrell said. “You have to search them out. It takes a little time, but that’s time on the front end. Once you develop where your supply comes from, then it’s being mindful about ordering when you need it. It can be easy to switch.”